Integrating the Structured Self: Part 2

(Disclaimer: The contents of this article are based on personal opinion and philosophy. Accept what you can and discard the rest)

The first part expounded on the vital need to undertake on the internal journey and the tools of navigating your inner psyche. Part 2 is about the pitfalls, some common psyche structures and how circumnavigate so that we can move from victimhood to true empowerment.

There are 2 alchemical concepts in Latin: “Solve” and “Coagula” which mean to “dissolve” and “coagulate/combine”. The two are essential prerequisites for inner transformative work.

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Integrating the Structured Self: Part 1

By Ashwin Jose

There are 2 journeys we need to undertake being a human being — The external and internal journey.

The external journey is one of seeking, experiencing, acquiring, establishing, consuming and integrating many of the offerings of the material world. Even though it appears that the external comforts and pleasures are the key to fulfillment, yet it is time-bound and temporal.

The internal is the true catalyst of the external journey. The endless barrage of needs, wants, expectations, beliefs, emotions, thought patterns and intuition forms the choppy internal seas, which are navigated through conscious intention and awareness.

The adage “Know Thyself”, inscribed at the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi is our life’s work. The job of integrating a fractured self at odds with each into a loving, compassionate being where all aspects support and act in unison.

The dark (pain, trauma, anger, craving, addiction, habitual thought patterns) are integrated into the light (Being present and aware to our thoughts, actions and words).

Unification and resolution of internal conflicts lead to a completeness that we are desperately seeking outside. The constant need to fill the incompleteness, which fuels our feverish, desires slowly fades away.

Here are some steps to begin the internal journey of piecing together “The Self”.

  1. Acknowledging that the default state of the identity is one of fragmentation and compartmentalization. There are aspects of the identity that are validated by our external world. There are other “shadow” aspects that are condoned and forced into repression.

Integrating pain, anger, disappointment, rage, lust, fears and any undesirable feeling or emotion are essential for completeness. We are habitually taught to avoid high sensations and avoid emotions by various means of anesthetizing it by distracting ourselves. Excesses of food, addictions, sex, compulsive behaviors and emotions stems from the fact that we all share a pain body.

A pain body that is the storehouse of all pain and trauma we have suppressed across the years and that which is slowly draining us of our vitality and love. Pain must be experienced with non-judgment, purely as sensation.

Attach no stories or evaluations of the identity; the identity loves to attach itself to a fixed point of view.

Example: He/She left me because I am broken. Yet, we have the need to construct our identity based on our external experiences. Instead, cultivate awareness of the context, the grand canvas on which the play of emotions occur.

Observe it unflinchingly — observe the compulsive thoughts, words and emotions, which spew into the self. Experience it but let it flow through you, forgiveness and loving the darkness is the way out.

2. Withdrawing the senses: The human organism creates impressions in the mind, through the use of the senses. The eyes crave to see images that stir and create emotion and sensations. The ears crave words that the identity wants to hear: music and vibrations, which generate sensations. The tongue craves all tastes and delights of sensation. The touch craves warmth and oneness, stimulation of mind and body.

Hence, our concentration of energies are dissipated when we constantly seek out external sensations. Give sometime everyday to withdraw from the sensory world and go internal. Meditation, contemplation and prayer are good ways to focus the attention inwards.

3. Taking a step back from the identity. We fall into reactionary modes that are caused by the inability to step away from the default mode of “identity-consciousness”. We are too caught up in the daily operation of the human machine, to truly see it for what it is. A construct required for operating in the external world.

We assume an identity on birth, living life constantly defined by what it “thinks it to be.” The identity feel wounded, hungry and incomplete because it misplaces the true source of joy and contentment as external.

There are definite short-term joys in the external but without cultivating a internal mind of awareness and clarity, it is constantly looking for the next hit and high instead of truly being absorbed in what is present right now.

A quick exercise to step away from your identity:

1. Close your eyes~ Visualize your physical body in your mind’s eye

2. pull back from the image of yourself

3. pull back until you can see yourself in your environment in your mind’s eye

4. pull back further so that you can see yourself as a speck in the sky

5. pull back so further back now that you are in the stars and you exist only as a being aware of its existence.

This is a good exercise to see you as a third-person. Instead of asking what “I” want, ask what would “Insert Your Name here” want to contribute. Instead of what I need and want, it good to place intention on how can I fulfill my highest, grandest vision of myself that would assist as many people as possible.

To be concluded in Part 2

Navigating the seas of duality

By Ashwin Jose

(Disclaimer: The contents of this article are based on personal opinion and philosophy. Accept what you can hold and discard the rest.)

This article was jostled by a deep conversation I had with a friend about conflicting ideologies and choosing a side. The concept of “either/or”

The human condition requires our mental makeup to choose between conflicting ideologies and positions.

The choosing a position would essentially put you in conflict with the other. (And if you do not naturally choose you fall into the other category by default.)

Is there a middle path? A way where the endless play of duality can be reconciled?

Duality is perceived to be at the core of all aspects of life. Here are some from an almost inexhaustible list.

Feminine/Masculine

Good/Bad

Right/Wrong

Peace/War

Hot/Cold

Light/Dark

Capitalism/Communism etc. etc. etc.

Is choosing a side the best option available for our growth and expansion as a human being? Will choosing a side essentially bring forth happiness, love, joy, reconciliation, service, contentment and bliss?

The obvious answer according to me is “NO”. It is this “us/them” mentality that is the root of a lot of dysfunction prevalent in our psyche and the external world.

It is important therefore to understand how the human psyche operates. The human being is characterized by its need to judge. To evaluate possibilities and choose internal and external stances which best serves the survival of the being and its identity.

All identity constructs require this constant evaluation of reality and choosing mental constructs that supports and validates the identity construct.

Judgment is essentially conflicting thought currents. It is the constant grappling with the reality “I” am experiencing and the reality “I” would like it to be. This “I” is identity constructed by multitudinous interpretations of reality based on the past.

There is an incessant feverish attempt of this “I” to generate worst-case scenarios in an attempt to protect itself. The way out of this cyclical world of “I” is the recognition that there is nothing to protect. The “I” is a construct and will pull all sorts of smoke and mirror games to prevent you from observing it.

The identity and the thoughts the “I” hold, as reality is merely an interpretation of life. Life is beyond explanation, and conceptions and any description of it falls short from the actual experience.

To be with it completely without judging it requires surrendering to existence. Surrendering to what is truly present — right now. Surrender does not mean submission but not being in resistance to what is arising due to the mismatch between internal expectations and external reality. Having a vision, striving for it and having indomitable faith that it will happen… also being being okay when all the striving does not produce expected results.

Bringing awareness to it and accepting what is present — helps one integrate and move past it.

Getting caught up on something happens when there is an incessant needs to be getting a “WHY?” from experiences. For instance, Why did _____(fill in the blank) happen to me!

Instead of Why, ask “WHAT?” What am I truly experiencing right now when I strip away all interpretations of it. What am I experiencing in the mind through the constant influx of thought, how is the body responding to this and what actions am I taking based on what I think and feel?

Most essentially — what am I not confronting right now? What will be available when I penetrate what I have been avoiding?

Acceptance involves surrendering to the present moment. A faith that what is present is perfect the way it is and the way its not. Experiencing the conflict, the ambivalence and bringing love and acceptance to it.

I feel love but I am selfish sometimes. I take risks in life yet I am petrified sometimes. I am responsible for my life, yet I act like a victim sometimes. The integration of these seemingly endless flavors of duality is our internal work.

Duality is essential in experiencing the physical dimension. Without pain, pleasure is not valued. Without experiencing turmoil, we would not sanctify peace. Seeing the results of hatred and selfishness brings us closer in love and acceptance.

Without the endless sea of duality, we would not be able to experience the unity that underlies all.

Mindfulness 101

by Ashwin Jose

There has been quite a bit of talk in the media regarding mindfulness (specifically meditation) and its importance to mental wellbeing, emotional awareness and stress reduction among its many benefits.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/19/meditation-benefits_n_5842870.html

Yet, many find that committing to a practice of sitting meditation or any practice of “observing the mind” is wrought with challenges and disruptions. Here I try to get down to the core of what Mindfulness is and how to circumvent the choppy internal seas.

Mindfulness as defined by Merriam-Webster:

the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis”

The definition does provide a starting point for understanding the “internal state” but for a true comprehension of this concept, “experience” is paramount.

The default state of existence for most of us is, a mental state of a constant association/fixation to mental images and inner dialogue.

This state arises from a need to constantly assess and judge external conditions for our physical and/emotional safety. Survival is the name of the game for all living creatures and the mind has evolved from many millennia to keep us safe from physical harm. Yet, in the modern age some of us do not have any overt threats to our survival like our ancestors had to deal with (luckily).

Hence, the mind had to create elaborate systems to make sure that pain is avoided at all costs- emotional and physical. (The need to constantly look at a phone, a screen, reward yourself to sugar cravings, or other compulsive behaviors from this innate urge to avoid discomfort and anesthetize it)

Imagine you are on an isolated beach with an all pervading silence. How much time will you be able to stay in that space, enjoying and being with the environment, till your mind starts questioning and judging? Will the judging create with it associated physical discomfort? Will it tell you that there is something more important, different, or better that you would rather be doing right now?

The mind will question you constantly and try to convince you, of all the things that might and will go wrong. This in turn, is based on interpretations of past painful events and the need to avoid it. It arises from a subconscious mind that equates all pain to death or threat to survival.

Yet, all growth begins at a point of discomfort or a break in habitual patterns (mental, emotional and physical). For instance, that first day at the gym, or the day you decided to commit to eating healthy, leaving an unfulfilling job or a relationship. All of these seemed like painful, life threatening situations when it happened.

Yet, in hindsight it was best thing you could have experienced in the moment. It was the undertone of discomfort/ dissatisfaction with the state of current existence that prompted you to seek and commit to a different outcome. It had to come from an internal shift where you overcame a sensation of fear with faith that whatever action was done was for for the best.

Fear — is your friend. It is simply trying to protect you from perceived pain. You have to constantly re-assure Fear that pain will not cause your death but rather lead to a “greater growth”. Allowing fear to be present and not giving into the sensations but rather creating awareness around it, is where mindfulness begins.

It is simply realizing that you have thoughts, fears, considerations and judgements but your true essence is beyond all of those.

Your true essence is pure awareness, or being present in what is happening — right now — in the moment.

Ekhart Tolle’s phenomenal book “The Power of NOW” is a great starting point to experience the “now — the present moment”. https://www.eckharttolle.com/books/now/

The mind constantly wants to go to the next experience or wants to remember some past incidents. Most of the time it is in refusal of what is actually so. What is actually happening now. Acceptance of what is now, is the key to peace and inner-development.

Meditation or mindfulness hence becomes a process of disengaging from these default states of existence, in order to train the mind to bring awareness back to the home base — Your body. The mind’s nature is to wander, so initially it is best not to fight the impulse to wander, but rather let it be. When the mind has ceased to wander, bring it back to a point of focus inside the body. The rhythmic sensation of breath going in and out is a good place to start.

Our minds and psyche are complex, yet the the awareness of it is a “simple experience”. It simply exists and is in a constant state of “IS”ness.

Mindfulness is truly becoming aware of the mind through the body.

Here is a quick Meditation practice you can engage in for an inner experience of the NOW:

  1. Set a timer for a certain time you feel comfortable and add 2 minutes to it. The purpose is to stretch the mind beyond its perceived habitual threshold.
  2. Sit in an upright and comfortable posture and close your eyes. Best to be in a silent setting, with less sensory inputs.
  3. Settle into your sitting posture and feel free to shift your posture until you can maintain a certain erectness to the spine so that your stomach relaxes outward.
  4. Once you have settled into your seat, start feeling into your breath. By that I mean, the actual sensation of air going in through the nostrils and coming out.
  5. What have you observed? If the breathing seems short or quick, I urge you to first take at least 5 counts of deep diaphragmatic breathing (deep breaths which will actually elevate and release your diaphragm)
  6. Once the 5 breaths are complete, try to pay attention to any body sensation that you can sense immediately. The most effective technique is to observe the breathing pattern of inhalation and exhalation.
  7. If you find this extremely difficult, focusing on any other bodily sensation, like your feet touching the floor or hands resting on your lap could be a good starting point.
  8. If you feel that this is also difficult, naming what you feel aloud or writing what sensations were brought up is an effective method to clear the slate of thoughts and start anew. Its all about “the observation of your mind and bodily sensations”
  9. Once you have eased into the sensation of breathing, try to observe what is going on in your body. Thoughts, mental images, voices, sense impressions, physical pain or discomfort may obscure the experience. This is simply bringing awareness to what was avoided or what you had chosen not to address.
  10. Let them be and don’t fight thoughts. Just remember to observe the breath whenever your awareness shifts.
  11. Once you have completed the exercise slowly open your eyes and try to arrive at a neutral posture by consciously slowing down movement. Try not to break awareness with abrupt body movements.
  12. Writing down sensations, sketching images or pictures that came to you while meditation is a good way to process the experience and integrate the experience.

In conclusion, acknowledge yourself for undertaking a practice of looking within and starting on a process of self-inquiry. Like every practice, the beginning will require a sincere effort and a desire to break away from your current state of affairs. Acknowledge resistance and discomfort. It is only temporary. And with most things in life “This too shall pass”.